AIA Blue Ribbon Panel encourages construction industry to work together to implement building codes that make resiliency, human health and reducing carbon top priorities.
Most of today’s building codes were developed to address routine safety issues. These regulations safeguard building occupants from hazards such as fire and collapse, while providing standards for adequate ventilation and thermal comfort. But what happens when health, safety and welfare no longer apply to just routine safety issues but also extend to broader issues stemming from climate change and its interaction within the built environment?
That question is especially relevant today with buildings responsible for 40 percent of the world’s carbon emissions and a major contributor to global warming. A new publication by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), addresses this challenge head on. “Disruption, Evolution, and Change” calls on architects, policy makers and construction industry partners to adopt sweeping new resiliency and sustainability codes that would protect not only today’s building inhabitants but future generations.
The report recommends advancing codes to outcome-based and performance standards, as well as widespread adoption of transparency and benchmarking policies. “Our built environment is only as good as it performs. To get there we need the collaboration, partnership and support of internal and external stakeholders,” said Anica Landreneau, HOK’s director of sustainability and a member of the Blue Ribbon Panel that authored the report.
Today’s codes must address not just the impact buildings have on climate change, but the impact climate change has on the built environment: “Few jurisdictions have advanced their building codes in recent decades, and fewer still have the means to enforce those codes,” said Landreneau. “More alarming is that no current codes address resiliency beyond fire, seismic activity and, in the Gulf Coast region, hurricanes. But what happens when cataclysmic fire, wind flood, hurricanes and rising oceans aren’t once-in-a-century occurrences but annual events?”
As dire as the consequences could be if building codes are left unchanged, the AIA publication largely strikes an aspirational tone, charting a path forward focused on three goals:
- Reducing the amount of energy required to construct and operate buildings.
- Ensuring that buildings support the health and welfare of people and the planet.
- Making building performance more transparent so people can make more informed decisions about the buildings they occupy and the impact those buildings have on the environment.
The report provides benchmarks for achieving the various goals over the next 20 years and would include not only new construction but existing buildings.
“The key takeaway is that our building codes and standards have to adapt to address our changing world,” said Landreneau. “The foundation of our building codes—“Health, Safety and Welfare”—do not mean what they used to and are falling short. We need to redefine what HSW means to our profession to encompass resiliency, human health and well-being, climate change and issues that fall outside of current codes and design practices.”
For more information, download a copy of “Distribution, Evolution, and Change.”